Buck -v- The Governor of Portlaoise Prison, [2016] IEHC 402 (2016)

Docket Number:2016 14SSP
Party Name:Buck, The Governor of Portlaoise Prison

THE HIGH COURT[2016 No. 14 SS P]






JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice McDermott delivered on the 13th day of July, 2016

  1. This is an application by Anthony Buck who was convicted of murder and robbery following a three week trial before the Central Criminal Court (Quirke J.) on 20th February, 1998. The application is made in the form of a letter with an accompanying statement of facts and submissions. There is no sworn affidavit grounding the application and the court is not furnished with copies of any orders or warrants issued, the transcript of the trial, any papers in relation to the appeal or the grounds of appeal or orders and judgment made on appeal. It has long been the case that a complaint may be made in an informal way by letter to the High Court alleging that a person is being unlawfully detained. Once the complaint is made the court is obliged to consider and rule upon it in open court (The State (Cremin) v. Cork Circuit Judge (unreported Supreme Court 8th February, 1965 per Ó Dálaigh C.).

  2. Following his conviction the applicant was sentenced to imprisonment for life in respect of the murder conviction and twelve years imprisonment in respect of the robbery charge. He subsequently appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal. That appeal was dismissed but a point of law of exceptional public importance was certified for the consideration of the Supreme Court pursuant to s. 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 on the 10th December, 1999. The certified question was as follows:

    “In circumstances where a member of An Garda Síochána arrests a person suspected of a serious crime (in the instant case murder) at a time and in circumstances where it is likely that there will be difficulties in getting a solicitor for the arrested person should such be requested; and

    where the arrested person is detained in a garda station pursuant to the provisions of s. 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 and does in fact request access to a solicitor and is questioned for substantial periods of time by relays of gardai in relation to the offence for which he was arrested before he has access to a solicitor;

    whether the conduct of the gardai in so questioning the arrested person before he has access to a solicitor but after he has sought access constitutes a conscious and deliberate violation of the arrested persons constitutional right of access to a solicitor (not being a violation which has extraordinary excusing circumstances) rendering inadmissible in evidence any statement, omissions or confessions which may thereafter be made by the arrested persons;

    notwithstanding that the arrested person may after the said questioning have a visit from a solicitor (while still in s. 4 detention) and make the statement, admissions or confessions after such visit from the solicitor.”

  3. The facts of the case are set out in the judgment of the Supreme Court (The People (DPP) –v- Buck [2002] 2 I.R. 268). Following his arrest at 3:15pm on a Sunday, the applicant was detained under s. 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 and continuously questioned by teams of gardai with some interruption until the arrival of his solicitor at 8:33pm. During the course of these interviews he was questioned about the murder of the late David Nugent and denied any involvement in the attack which led to his death. At approximately 5:29pm one of the interviewing gardai when leaving the interview room informed another on his way in that the applicant wanted a solicitor and that he did not want to answer any questions until he had spoken to a solicitor. A number of attempts were made to contact a solicitor unsuccessfully until the services of a solicitor were procured for the applicant at 8:33pm.

  4. The solicitor who attended and had a consultation with the applicant gave evidence in the course of his trial which is quoted in the judgment of Keane C.J. He stated that in the course of the consultation the applicant confirmed that he had not made a statement and that he was familiar with garda stations having had a number of previous convictions. He told his solicitor “I know all about making statements”. He also stated that he was not involved in the matters alleged; he was pleading not guilty and would not be making a statement. When told that he did not have to make a statement he is said to have replied “I know all about that”. The applicant gave a different account of this interview stating that the solicitor informed him that there were already witnesses against him and that the best thing to do was to make a statement. The trial judge in his ruling on the issue stated that he accepted the...

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